Objective

Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s response to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak regarding the safety of its employees.

In March 2020, the president of the United States declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency; its impact to the nation’s health and safety has been unprecedented. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 31, 2020, there were 4.5 million cases and 151,000 deaths in the U.S. Many states and communities shut down businesses, asked people to stay home, and prohibited gatherings to slow the spread of the virus. Even during the shutdowns, the Postal Service continued to deliver mail and packages to every address in the nation, every day.

To lead its pandemic response, the Postal Service created the COVID-19 Command Response Team at headquarters to ensure the agency followed directives and guidance from the CDC. The Postal Service implemented changes to slow the spread of the virus, manage and support affected employees, and ensure that recovered employees returned to work safely.

To slow the virus’s spread, the Postal Service required all employees to wear face coverings where a state or local mandate was in place and social distancing could not be achieved, requested customers to wear face coverings in all retail facilities, and established daily cleaning of the workroom floor and cleaning of frequently touched surfaces between tours. In addition, the Postal Service established a COVID-19 Supplies Command Center to monitor daily inventories in the field and identify facilities in need of essential supplies. This helped ensure millions of face coverings, gloves, and cleaning products were available to about 641,000 Postal Service employees working across 31,500 facilities. To identify employees with COVID-19 symptoms at work, the Postal Service also deployed a temperature-taking proof of concept test at four facilities in May 2020.

For employees who either contracted or were affected by the virus, the Postal Service allowed the use of liberal leave. It also established a Close Contact Tracing Program in April 2020 to outline safety protocols for identifying and quarantining employees who came into close contact with an infected person at work, as well as tracking employees with a positive COVID-19 test. The Postal Service’s nursing staff is responsible for conducting contact tracing to determine if any employees were in contact with an infected coworker. They also set return-to-work dates for employees after an exposure to or illness from COVID-19.

The Postal Service’s quick actions likely saved lives and certainly increased employee safety. Despite these efforts to contain COVID-19, 33,945 employees took leave to quarantine, 7,421 tested positive for the virus, and 80 died, as of July 31, 2020. The number of new, positive cases in the Postal Service steadily increased since the first confirmed case in February 2020 through the end of July 2020. Therefore, vigilance and additional precautions could help further protect employees.

Findings

While we recognize the challenges facing the Postal Service during the pandemic, we identified three areas where the Postal Service can better protect its employees: (1) face covering policy, (2) contact tracing program, and (3) employee health screening.

First, Postal Service employees did not always wear face coverings when proper social distancing could not be achieved. We visited 10 facilities, including five mail processing and five retail and delivery facilities, and observed employees at four retail and delivery facilities (40 percent) who did not adhere to the local face covering policy. In addition, during our review of camera footage, we observed 41 of 117 facilities (35 percent) with at least one employee not wearing a face covering where a local mandate required one, and while not social distancing.

These employees were behind the counter or in the back of a retail and delivery facility or on the workroom floor in a processing facility.

The Postal Service face covering policy at all facilities cited local or state mandates and when employees could not maintain social distancing in the workplace. However, facility management voiced confusion with the policy and interpreted it to mean that state and local directives determined whether employees were required to wear face coverings. Postal Service Headquarters considered the local requirements supplemental to the nationwide policy.

In addition, managers of offending employees were not always aware they could enforce the face covering policy. An enforcement process which includes engaging the union representative and taking appropriate action existed; however, it was not well-known or followed because it was only communicated verbally to some managers. The confusing face covering policy and its inconsistent enforcement put employees at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 and potentially decreased employee availability.

Second, the Close Contact Tracing Program did not include an overarching program goal with associated metrics and did not ensure adequate staffing. Management indicated they did not establish goals for the contact tracing program because they did not believe contact tracing was measurable and did believe that its application varied case by case. However, program goals and performance metrics are essential to monitor progress and determine resources needed. In addition, the responsibilities of and reliance on the nursing staff grew during the pandemic because local public health departments were unable to complete contact tracing. As of July 31, 2020, there were 116 Postal Service nurses nationwide, with 30 vacancies — a 21 percent vacancy rate. Local management did not actively post open positions on the Postal Service’s career website. Retaining a full complement of nurses, or supplementing them where necessary with contractor support, is especially important during the COVID-19 crisis.

Lastly, although the CDC recommended temperature taking for employees in April 2020, the Postal Service did not deploy temperature taking within its facilities nationwide. As of July 31, 2020, there was at least one employee who either tested positive for COVID-19 or quarantined due to possible exposure to the virus at over 7,000 Postal Service facilities. The Postal Service conducted a temperature taking proof of concept test in May 2020 at four facilities, and it plans to conduct health screening tests at two additional facilities.

The Postal Service indicated that it has not deployed nationwide temperature taking tests because completing the test is resource intensive and there were privacy concerns. The Postal Service’s process for conducting the tests was complicated, and it required the purchase of different types of thermometers, additional employee time, and coordination with the law department and unions. Additionally, the Postal Service determined that temperature taking alone would not be enough to identify employees with COVID-19. Without conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks of employees before they enter the facility, employees could come to work while sick, increasing the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19 to other employees and customers.

We did not evaluate recent operational changes made by the Postal Service or the significant increases in delayed mail at delivery units experienced this summer. In response to a congressional request received on August 7, 2020, we have an ongoing project which will evaluate these operational changes and their impact on mail service.

Recommendations

We recommended management:

  • Clarify and communicate the Postal Service’s face covering policy for consistent, nationwide application.
  • Communicate policy regarding immediate enforcement and corrective action for non-compliance with the face covering policy.
  • Re-evaluate the Close Contact Tracing Program to include program goals, performance metrics, and a hiring initiative to ensure adequate staffing.
  • Evaluate options and implement a nationwide health screening initiative which may include employee self-certification.

Read full report

Audit Resolution - Recommendation 2

OIG Response

Audit Resolution - Recommendation 4

OIG Response

Comments (419)

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  • anon

    No one working the front desk in Homer Alaska 99603 post office was wearing a mask today. The clerk was very defiant when I questioned her about it, saying she wasn't required to wear one. I asked her if she read President Biden's order? No response. Who do we contact about this mask refusal?

    Feb 04, 2021
  • anon

    Are postal workers required to where face coverings inside buildings they are delivering mail to ? If so who do you contact to have it enforced. We have contacted the main office over 15 times and nothing is being done. There are singes that say face covering is required.

    Feb 04, 2021
  • anon

    Postal counter person not wearing a mask. I understood this to be mandatory. This was post office in Braselton, GA 30519

    Feb 04, 2021
  • anon

    Post Office is ran by egotistical morons who are more concerned with their own career advancement instead of the welfare of the employees or the overall operation! They are non-compliant with face masks and enforcement of same. Shame on them!

    Feb 04, 2021
  • anon

    East Peoria, IL office...NO MASKS. I know they also do not wear them in the back as well as I know a few carriers. People are not comfortable with this, nor are some workers comfortable speaking up about this. What a shame.

    Feb 04, 2021
  • anon

    Yesterday, in the mailroom of my building in Stuyvesant town a postal worker was wearing a mask around her chin, leaving her entire nose and upper lip exposed. She refused to move it when I asked, and stared at me defiantly when i pleaded her to protect herself and me. She said she'd been drinking her drink there. which was worse still, and continued to ignore me when I asked her to pull her mask up. Another neighbor took photos of her, and we do not feel safe in the building with such disrespect.

    Feb 04, 2021
  • anon

    Boy, I feel sorry for these postal employees having to deal with such Karen's. Yikes.

    Feb 09, 2021
  • anon

    Yep

    Feb 25, 2021
  • anon

    Today at 2:13 clerk #19 at Valmont Post Office Boulder CO 80301 was not wearing a mask. It made me feel uncomfortable. There were several elderly customers in the line. Do these people who refuse to wear masks also refuse to wear seat belts and stop at red lights? These laws and measures are for the sake of public health. Let’s work together to keep everyone healthy.

    Feb 03, 2021
  • anon

    Smithsburg MD 21783 - not one mask ever observed by any employee. You can here them making jokes about the fake virus while they spittle all over the packages they are handing you. This is why we are where we are at today.

    Feb 03, 2021
  • anon

    2/3/21 approx 3 pm : One employee at the Lake Havasu PO (86403-9998) wasn't wearing a mask, only clear plastic face shield. No employees said anything to the people not wearing masks. One employee mentioned to a customer that they don't care about masks or a federal mandate.

    Feb 03, 2021
  • anon

    I was just at the Montague, MI post office and the employee behind the counter, no mask. I said I was surprised he wasn't wearing a mask. He said that the plexi glass was sufficient and that they wouldn't offer him a respirator. Meanwhile, I turned around and customer behind me, no mask. Isn't this a federal offense at this point? Not only did it make me uncomfortable, but awfully dangerous for that employee. No way the plexi glass is sufficient in that tiny space with customers without masks.

    Feb 03, 2021
  • anon

    Grapeview Post Office Washington 98546 Employees not wearing mask, clear spit shield that just covers the mouth. That does not meet the state or federal mask requirement! Potentially exposing so many people to COVID-19 . The people have no choice if they want their mail.

    Feb 03, 2021
  • anon

    Hello. Thank you for your message. Regarding your concern, please contact Postal Service Consumer Affairs Office at https://postalpro.usps.com/ppro-tools/consumer-affairs

    Feb 10, 2021
  • anon

    I feel like I'm in a hostile work place in Elk City KS. The clerk refuses to wear a mask to wait on customers or to protect us. It is a very small office with a clerk and 2 Rural Carriers. There is no way to social distance. Every time I mention it the clerk gets mad. Our little town has had several cases of Covid. After finally trying to get help she is furious with me. She stood and glared at me for 20 minutes while I was strapping out. She won't put the sneeze guard up and never wears a mask to wait on customers. Can we please get clarification on what is required?

    Feb 03, 2021
  • anon

    We need to establish protocols for all Post Offices. I am so stressed and worried because one in our office refuses to wear any kind of face covering since it's her 'Right' not to. Please be specific on rules!

    Feb 02, 2021
  • anon

    Nampa Idaho has no signs indicating that masks are mandatory and Some Postal employees work at the counter without a mask and they're about 3 feet away in some cases. Where's the enforcements!?

    Feb 02, 2021
  • anon

    I visited the Homosassa FL 34446 Post Office on US 19. No employees at the counters were wearings. I thought the federal government mask mandate started February 1st? I left without purchasing my stamps.

    Feb 02, 2021
  • anon

    Went to the Rockledge Fl post office today and 3 of the 4 employees up front were not wearing mask. Nice way to tell your President to get lost.

    Feb 02, 2021
  • anon

    I purchased stamps at Cadyville NY 12918 post office yesterday. Although there was a piece of plexiglass across the counter - the attendant didn't wear a face mask. Is this in violation of your policy?

    Feb 02, 2021
  • anon

    Are us postal drivers required to wear a mask when a possible close contact is possible? I found a driver parked beside the curb with his door open and he wasn’t wearing a mask. Problem is, the drivers seat is right next to the curb where I walked by. Also, they handle the mail without gloves or a mask. I find that problematic.

    Feb 01, 2021
  • anon

    Wearing gloves is pointless...Unless you change them after every single box. If you ever had to drive a LLV in the middle of summer 100 degree weather... You Would know exactly why the carrier isn’t wearing a mask. Furthermore, How dare anyone sit around and complain over a service provided to them free of charge! Don’t like your mailman? Then, go rent you a PO Box!

    Feb 15, 2021
  • anon

    I just went into my small, rural post office in Virginia, 22958, for stamps. The employee at the counter was not wearing a mask, there was no barrier at the counter. Please address this type of blatant disregard for rules & safety. Thank you.

    Feb 01, 2021
  • anon

    I go to our Moberly Mo post off about three times a week and go to the customer service area for shipments. . Not once have I’ve seen the employees at the counter wearing masks. Although there’s plexiglas it still does not cover across the entire counter. It is disturbing. I thought the Biden mandate requiring masks in federal buildings would finally change this. Would like to know “why”?..........

    Feb 01, 2021
  • anon

    Visited Cedar Bluff, Alabama this morning 8:15 am to purchase stamps and to deliver back to them mail placed in my box erroneously. While I was doubled masked, the one postal employee I saw had on NO MASK. Thank you for you kind attention to this matter.

    Feb 01, 2021
  • anon

    Now that there is a Federal Mandate for masks in Federal buildings, shouldn't there be a mask required sign at the entrance of the lobby. My town Spearfish SD 57783 does not have one and many customers dont wear one.

    Jan 31, 2021
  • anon

    All responsible party that confirms Louis Dejoy’s confirmation should be fired.

    Jan 30, 2021
  • anon

    Even in Jan 21, in a lobby full of “mask required” signs USPS employees still wearing the fake, clear plastic, spit screens ... not masks. Kettering Ohio main post office

    Jan 30, 2021
  • anon

    The city of Industry Post office Nursing Staff for Covid-19 is conducting actions against employees with Positive and Negative test results. Revealing test results to management in an unprofessional matter. Employees with Negative results are being kept longer 'stay at home rest; rather than sending them back to work before the employees that are testing Positive. This looks like a conspiracy act and should be penalized. The reason why the USPS is late on deliveries is because they've had many employees withheld for more than they should be up to two months. Go correct this and look at the records and dates.

    Jan 30, 2021
  • anon

    I totally agree with you , Jessica ! It happened with myself and my fiancé. I tested positive , he never tested but quarantined longer than myself , I was the one sick !! He had to quarantine for 2 weeks after my last day of sickness !

    Feb 02, 2021
  • anon

    Plano texas. Jupiter and 18th st . None of the employees wear face coverings at all. Not ever their management does.

    Jan 29, 2021
  • anon

    OKLAHOMA CITY post offices are horrible with the new mask mandate, and even before, those on the counters were supposed to wear them according to PO Guidelines. 73112 Post Office - none at front counter wear them. Ridiculous.

    Jan 29, 2021
  • anon

    The postmaster and..carriers in whitewright tx.. Don't wear mask either

    Jan 29, 2021
  • anon

    Post office in Crozet Virginia at 1210 Crozet Ave, VA 22932 12/29/2021 at 1pm. Frontline workers not a wearing mask. Another person in the back not wearing a mask. I asked the person why she did not have a mask on and she told me, "she had a medical condition" but she was not wearing a face shield.

    Jan 29, 2021
  • anon

    Allen, Tx postal personnel are wearing spittle guards, small plastic coverings over their lower jaw area, no masks beneath. C’mon, the data is clear that those are not effective in arresting virus transmissions, ESPECIALLY within the confines of a building. What are you doing here?!?! Get em masked up for crying out loud.

    Jan 28, 2021
  • anon

    Visited Spearfish, SD Post Office on 27 Jan 2021. All patrons were wearing masks, but none of the four USPS employees I saw were wearing a mask. The service counter employee, two employees in the back sorting area standing within a foot of each other, and another employee who exited from that back area and walked unmasked through the customer lobby among patrons, including elderly customers. I called the Spearfish, SD Postmaster (Lornie Stalder) this morning to express my concern. He told me that until he receives the federal property mask mandate in writing, he cannot enforce it. Are you kidding me?

    Jan 28, 2021
  • anon

    My post office, Rincon Station in Tucson AZ, they decided that making the customers come to the post office wait in line for over an hour with people not wearing mask. They went as far as to return all my packages because I told them I was high risk and refused to go to that Covid trap and ask if someone could drop it at the door. They said they didn’t deliver to the door of apartments. This has been going on for two month and I currently have 3 high dollar packages that contain equipment for my business that they are refusing to deliver now for over a week even though I have requested them several times. I have been writing complaints to the USPS and Inspector General to no avail. They don’t care about their customers

    Jan 28, 2021
  • anon

    It is appalling that federal government employees are not held accountable for wearing masks. PLEASE correct the employees including the postmaster at ALLENWOOD , NJ 08720. Employees are not wearing masks and allow customers to not wear masks. This is extremely dangerous and unacceptable.

    Jan 28, 2021
  • anon

    I opened the garage and was not expecting to see the mailman. I was not wearing my mask and neither was he. I was under the understanding that is a mandate law that all federal workers wear a mask. If I get covid Im holding the mailman responsible. Maria

    Jan 27, 2021
  • anon

    Sorry to hear that you would blame someone for a virus, as in turn , he could blame you.. we as postal carriers walk the streets on most days solemnly .. far from people . And yes we do wear mask, but an unexpected sudden encounter with our mask down is uncommon and caught you and him unprepared ...

    Jan 31, 2021
  • anon

    No where does it state that an employee walking outside has to wear a mask. Its not our fault you came outside at the exact time. You should pay closer attention and when seeing us stay 6 ft apart. If you have a problem with it, we can easily stop delivering to your house because of our own safety concerns which we have the right to do. If you have an issue with us doing our job in the different weather conditions (and expect us to use masks to walk 8+ hours with mail and packages, getting overly hot and sweating and having hard time breathing when we are outside not around anyone?) Like get serious we are working during a pandemic and have families too at home and we are working sometimes 12+ hrs 6x a week so please be a little thankful and respectful

    Jan 29, 2021
  • anon

    The post office in Ashland, Ohio is not following federal or state Covid safety guidelines. Observed over several visits, none of the employees wear masks while in the back, and every employee who comes to work at the front desk has their nose hanging over their masks every visit. This is the perfect hub to spread the virus throughout the entire community with the public-facing federal employees flouting the laws and rules all day, every day.

    Jan 27, 2021
  • anon

    The post office in South Gate, CA had a cluster of cases amongst staff in early January, at least nine employees tested positive for COVID19. This all stemmed from one individual coming in to work while sick and then spreading the virus. Now those sick employees (exposed at work) are being told this would not be a valid workers compensation claim and if any such claim is filed it will be denied-- and if in fact, a claim is pursued and then denied, the employee will be monetarily responsible for the investigation. But there is no contract tracing taking place, so how are they even documenting how exposure and subsequent illness occurred.

    Jan 27, 2021
  • anon

    Yesterday in Turlock, CA, 95380 a usps delivery person rang my doorbell to personally hand me a package (which did not require a signature) and mail he took out of my box. I had no way to see he was not wearing a mask until I opened the door and we were already less than 6' apart. That's completely unacceptable.

    Jan 26, 2021
  • anon

    Keene NY postmaster not wearing mask over nose and mouth or leaving it under the chin. Workers stand around in a group together with no care about social distancing. The office shut down once due to covid exposures are they trying to do that again by being irresponsible? I already had to drive to Lake Placid to ship my xmas gifts and buy stamps.

    Jan 26, 2021
  • anon

    Grapeview wa post office 98546. State wide mask mandate in place for months. Still not wearing mask properly. Now they wear face shields that just cover the mouth which it’s not an acceptable face covering. Lacks proper signage for mask mandate requirement at the door. Total disregard for the public’s safety!

    Jan 26, 2021
  • anon

    LIVINGSTON, Texas. Employee working the counter with the public not wearing mask. I asked the postmaster if they were supposed to and he said no, as long as she was behind a piece of plexiglass. She was not behind the glass when I entered. In fact, she and a unmasked customer were chatting gayly, face to face. The postmaster seemed irritated with me voicing my concerns. This is absolutely inexcusable. I have pictures. Monday, January 25th, at approximately 9:45.

    Jan 25, 2021
  • anon

    Postal employee at V evay. Indiana post office refuses to wear face covering even when requested.

    Jan 25, 2021
  • anon

    I live near downtown Charlottesville, VA. There are three post office locations convenient to me, and the majority of employees working out front do not wear masks. I go in frequently to mail packages, and do not feel safe doing so with unmasked workers. If customers have to wear masks, the employees should not be able to use any excuse to avoid following this policy.

    Jan 25, 2021
  • anon

    I tested positive on the 1st and haven't got paid is this happening everywhere?

    Jan 25, 2021

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